Tyler Perry’s upcoming Netflix film has been in the works for 25 years — and how it has finally been realized.
“I’m beyond excited about it,” Perry says on the PEOPLE Every Day podcast about A Jazzman’s Blues, his highly anticipated coming-of-age drama set in the 1940s, due on Netflix Sept. 23. “It’s something very, very different for me. And, so far the reception of it has been incredible.”
The star, 52, first wrote the screenplay back in 1995 when he was broke and struggling to launch his very first play. A fan of legendary playwright August Wilson, Perry tells PEOPLE that the inspiration for Blues came after he snuck into one of Wilson’s plays in Atlanta and the two had a chance encounter.
Says Perry, “I was telling him that I had all these stories that I wanted to tell, and he was very, very encouraging about me writing what I wanted to write. I went home that night and started writing A Jazzman’s Blues.”
In the many years since, Perry has become an entertainment titan and household name, who’s helped launch the careers of stars like Idris Elba and Tessa Thompson. On top of being part owner of Viacom’s BET+ network, in 2021, he launched his own production compound — Tyler Perry Studios — located in Atlanta, which sits on 330 acres of land.
Though he’s reached success in so many areas, Perry is no stranger to facing fierce criticism from the movie reviewers. Years after branching out from his Madea comedies, the writer-director says some in Hollywood still question his abilities, even when it came to this current film.
“Unfortunately with this film, I went to a bunch of up-and-coming young artists who were getting a lot of attention and I asked them about doing the role. They read the script, they loved the script, but I think there was a reservation or hesitation about working with me in particular on this film, because I guess they didn’t know how it would turn out.”
But Perry says, “Too bad, so sad for them,” and despite people turning him down for this opportunity, the cast that includes actors Joshua Boone and Solea Pfeiffer surpassed his artistic vision.
“A lot of times these teams don’t necessarily understand the power of my audience and what I bring. The people who are in [A Jazzman’s Blues] made it exactly what it was supposed to be,” he says. “It’s better than I ever thought it would be, but it’s always been very important to me to break new faces. And that has opened the door for me to be able to help so many people.”
More than anything, Perry says his ability to help people is what makes him the most proud. Last year, he notes the payroll for his studio equated to $154 million.
“I was really moved by that number,” he says, “and understanding with the strength of my audience in all of these years of investing, I am able to write those checks to that many people, many of them, women and people of color. It’s moving to me. It motivates me and it keeps me grounded and keeps me going, because I realize how many dreams have been tied up into mine.”
As father to 7-year-old son Aman, whom he shares with girlfriend Gelila Bekele, Perry says home life is just as fulfilling these days and he’s taking it all in stride.
“I’m busier now than I’ve ever been,” he says, “but I’m the most content that I’ve ever been.”
‘A Jazzman’s Blues’ premieres on Netflix Sept. 23.